Accounting, Technology

Cloud Accounting Tech Companies: Why my clients didn’t buy your system

Ahhhh, its August, time to take a breath from the crazy time of year for those in accounting and payroll tech implementations and support!

This year, whilst GovernRight and vSure remain my primary focuses, I had the pleasure to work with a few clients on accounting and payroll tech selection and implementations. From a small NFP, to a professional services firm, to one of Australia’s largest hospitality groups, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to a broad cross-section of systems and put them all to the test.

Whilst, the reasons why we selected the solution we did would be an interesting article, I think there is value to the market, the various vendors and their product managers/owners, to understand why clients don’t buy. So here goes, here’s a brief list of the key short-comings of the various cloud systems, that I have found whilst engaged in the selection and implementation processes over recent months.

Xero

  • Budgets don’t roll-up. For the NFP, running various programs, all of which have their own budget (that can vary throughout the year), the inability for Xero to roll-up multiple budgets into groups and total organisation-wide budgets, was a show-stopper.
  • Xero Payroll continues to lack core functional and compliance features such as ETPs. As someone who used to be involved in product management for a payroll tech company, I don’t understand how this isn’t being addressed, even with a simple, manual calculation, data entry of the ETPs…? https://community.xero.com/business/discussion/7464753/
  • As the premium priced solution in the market, it can be difficult to demonstrate the additional value of Xero over a lower priced, competitive solutions where core requirements are fairly generic and the client is price-sensitive.

MYOB Essentials

  • The battle is in finding the unique selling proposition. In each case where we assessed it, we struggled with the question: what is the compelling value proposition over Xero and QBo in particular? If you’re an MYOB person, please comment – I’m yet to find a person who has distilled it down for me clearly!

QBo

  • For professional service firms, the inability to mark expenses entered via the mobile app as billable and have that adequately flow through to a customer invoice, seems a remarkable oversight (years after the feature to allocate a customer to the expense, was added to the system);
  • Many add-ons only work with the “US Edition”, which makes for building the whole solution, frustrating.

ReckonOne

  • A key element of selection I believe is “when partnering with this company, do they have a future that looks bright and makes commercial sense?”. Sadly, with the spin off of the only growing part of Reckon to the UK secondary market, who can confidently say Reckon and its product suite will exist in 5 years from now, let alone continue to improve and remain competitive on elements like AI and an integrated eco-system of quality add-ons?

Saasu

  • Similar to my concerns for Reckon, the question for me is (and this is absolutely just my humble kid from Taree opinion, which I’m sure others will disagree with), in a world of “financial webs”, inter-connected apps and Artificial Intelligence, how will small players like Saasu compete long-term against the big boys and girls in promoting “generic”, any business, accounting technology solutions? Would you try to build a new, generic search engine or web-browser in 2017? I wouldn’t, the barriers to entry are too high. With Xero announcing 100 connected financial institutions in Australia, direct invoicing integration with the likes of Reece Plumbing, and an ever improving AI engine automating coding, the barriers to competitive, integrated solutions is growing by the day. And the point is, unless you have scale (in my opinion, worldwide scale) and market presence like Xero and Intuit, good luck building those technology stacks, distribution and support networks, institutional relationships and AI engines. Hence, my advice to clients, whilst Saasu seems a good option today (genuinely seems like a decent product), I fear the long-term consequences of selecting a small market player, so I wouldn’t recommend it…

The diagram above is my take on how you should consider technology solutions and support partners. Try to stay in the Goldilocks Zone and away from the Danger Zone. The greater the business impact solution/implementation failure would have, the more established, tried and proven (taking future considerations into account) the solution’s vendor and support partner should be.

  • For what it is worth, the answer for me for the likes of Saasu and Reckon is verticalisation, which has been an effective strategy for Exact in Europe. Contrast the vertical, premium priced approach of Exact, to the “generic” strategies (and messaging on their respective websites) of Reckon and Saasu. My bet is, over the coming 5 years, the Exact strategy will be effective, the current Reckon and Saasu market positionings will not.

Gem Accounts | Harmoniq | Financials for Office 365

  • Ditto – see Saasu, but consider the fact these are even smaller companies, trying to be “mid-market”, i.e. better than entry level…

Wave | Zoho Books | Freshbooks

  • Interesting international players, all with the potential and financial backing to scale, but I’m not convinced yet of their Australian credentials or Australian support network.

MYOB Advanced

  • Multi-entity is not its strength (compared to other mid-market solutions). If you run single database, multi-entity (branch), you are restricted to a BAS cycle and currency that must be consistent for all. If you run separate databases to get around the BAS and currency short-coming, you lose the benefit of single sign in, single database.
  • As a relatively new product in market, we found finding a happy, industry relevant testimonial client very difficult.
  • The user interface remains “old-school” and could use a refresh (which I believe it is getting based on my trip to Acumatica HQ in Russia last year). Compared with Workday at the top end and say QBo at entry level, the UI seems to be from Desktop apps, 10 years ago…
  • BankLink is still coming… like when? See NetSuite below for my thoughts on banking…
  • Payroll remains underwhelming for a mid-market offering.

NetSuite

  • Banking transactions and reconciliations remain remarkably old-school and the company & its Product team appear to remain blissfully unaware of market expectations (particularly for any client coming off a modern, cloud bookkeeping system which has bank feeds and AI driven coding).
  • Purchasing workflows and controls “out-of-the-box”, are remarkably lacking.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Enterprise

  • There appears a real disconnect between Microsoft and its traditional AX channel on pricing and positioning. Implementation quotes 5-10X annual licence costs is way out of whack with competitive offerings (my experience is 1-3X). There’s no point sharpening ongoing licence costs to bring down the entry point, if implementation costs are going to remain so high. Microsoft need to find a way to bring down the implementation overhead and/or find a new channel for mid-market implementations.

SageLive

  • Too many gripes to list, but basically the product is way too immature and not ready for the Australian market.
  • As a comical example, our US based pre-sales consultant, didn’t know what an ABA file was, but suggested a US only add-on for supplier batch payments…

FinancialForce

  • I couldn’t get a phone call or website enquiry returned to even assess the system… this either says a lot as to what they think about me, or it says a lot about them and how well you would be supported – you decide…

Epilogue

The reality is, there were a lot of reasons why my clients chose the solutions they did. FYI these were:

  • QBo (NFP)
  • Xero (Professional Services); and
  • NetSuite (multi-entity, hospitality)

Each were decisions specific to that client’s situation, industry, size and budget. But, as explained above, there are specifics that generically apply that I believe others should consider.

Now please, go forth and comment, retort, share and even like at will!

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Matt Paff (BBus GAICD) is founder of Value Adders and a veteran of the Accounting Technology industry. Renowned for his accounting technology blog (https://valueadders.com.au/articles) on the key accounting technology industry players, events and trends, Matt is the founder of the Australian consulting firm, Value Adders. Value Adders provides research and strategic consulting services to business technology vendors, accounting firms and other professional service providers, particularly around accounting industry trends and strategy. Matt’s resume includes time as GM at Attaché Software, one of the world’s longest surviving accounting software companies, as well as starting, growing and exiting a successful accounting technology & business process consulting firm. Matt currently Chairs the advisory board of Sydney based accounting firm Imagine Accounting as well as holding an Advisory role with Governance technology start-up GovernRight. In his spare time, Matt also runs a RegTech start-up vSure. Matt is passionate about a practical, plain English perspective. He is known for being a straight-shooter and appreciated for his forthright, researched opinions.